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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Civic architecture in a liminal city: Shanghai, 1842–1936
by Roskam, William Cole, Ph.D., Harvard University, 2010, 557; 3415427
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation examines the history of civic architecture in Shanghai over the course of its nearly 100 year existence as an international treaty port. It explores how China, as well as each of the major foreign powers with a physical presence in the city, including England, France, Japan, and the United States, attempted to address and overcome the inherent temporality of the Shanghai enterprise through architectural and urban projects of particular public significance. These include several large-scale zoning plans, public works schemes, town halls, government offices, and consulates located within each of the city's three municipalities; namely, the International Settlement, the French Concession, and Chinese-administered sections of the city.

I begin with an analysis of conflicting cultural conceptions of civic space and public architecture existing at the time of the establishment of the British Settlement in 1842. Chapter 2 focuses on the developing role of racially-based architectural categorizations and regulation and its impact upon the field of architecture subsequent as well as architectural design within the city. From here, the equation of Chinese cultural concepts of "face" to architectural and urban façade is considered within the context of several large-scale public works projects. Chapter 4 re-imagines three major municipal buildings proposed for construction between 1927 and 1934 as a kind of architectural dialogism, punctuated by grammars of site, style, and scale, in an attempt to define and convey a sense of political center and periphery within the city. I conclude with analyses of China's participation in Chicago's 1933 World's Fair and Shanghai's 1936 architectural exhibition, two critical but unexamined junctures in the complex and occasionally contradictory emergence of modern, uniquely Chinese architectural form.

Throughout the dissertation, texts, images, and buildings help to reveal how municipal and diplomatic buildings were imagined, manipulated, and constructed, both as part and in spite of Shanghai's fragile, semi-colonial governing system. Reframing the city's civic architectural history as a series of competing and collaborative architectural visions of its uncertain future offers a new context within which broader relationships between modern architectural development, public architecture, and conceptions of national identity and sovereignty may be understood.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Levine, Neil
School: Harvard University
School Location: United States -- Massachusetts
Source: DAI-A 71/07, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Art history, Architecture, Urban planning
Keywords: China, Civic architecture, Diplomatic architecture, Imperialism, International relations, Shanghai
Publication Number: 3415427
ISBN: 978-1-124-09107-5
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